How Required Reading Affects Readers, Writers, and Those Who are Reluctant to Do Both

By Emma Galbraith

February 1, 2020

I’m sure that lots of people have had those moments when they get to English class and realize that they forgot to read the chapter of required reading assigned to them the previous class. I’m an avid reader, and I’ve been there. This is simply because, like most cases of required reading, my only motivation to read it was the fact that I was being graded on my understanding of the material. Being a fan of action-packed fantasy and science fiction adventure, a slow-paced (and frankly depressing) historical-fiction novel was not my first pick of what to be graded on analyzing. Nevertheless, there are some things that those who like to read and those who like to write (as well as those who despise both) can take away from in-class required reading and summer reading.

Required reading is supposed to expose students to material that they wouldn’t normally pick up on their own. Sometimes, this can lead to the discovery of new books, genres, and authors that one might actually enjoy. I still vividly remember an incident from when I was in fifth grade, when all the fifth graders in the school had to read a certain number of books from this list of titles over the course of the year. On that list, I saw a book about dragons that I had never heard of before called Wings of Fire. I was like, “Oh, cool, dragons,” so I read the book. Four years later, Wings of Fire is still one of my favorite series. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is taken very literally by required reading. You never know whether you’re going to actually like a book before you pick it up. And if you hate it, maybe you are instead intrigued by the author’s writing style and explore other books by that author.

For those who like to write independently, whether it’s writing original fiction stories, informational essays, or just the occasional poem, something can be taken out of what may seem like an incredibly boring selection. A lot of the authors whose books are selected have a strong writing style that student writers can take inspiration from. Perhaps you hated a book, but you like how the author described settings. You could try to mirror that author’s style of setting description in your own writing. Utilizing bits and pieces of others’ writing styles is how a writer crafts his or her own signature writing style. Required reading can sometimes expose writers to different ideas and methods that can refine their own writing.

A lot of students that are assigned required reading might not be avid readers or writers. Even those whose passions lie outside the English classroom can take something away from it. A lot of required reading books are set in a certain time period, and those who like history can find out a lot about how people lived during that time. Most of the selections also have meaningful ideas or messages that the author built the story around, “morals” that can teach its readers things about life and humanity. 

There’s little to be done about the selection of a book you are required to read. However, there are still some ways to make use of it that attune to your interests. Required reading is not just about reading. Observed the right way, it can impact us in ways we might not have previously considered.

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Emma Galbraith

Emma Galbraith is the Editor of Arts & Culture at The Deliberator. In her free time, she likes to read books and research how humanity can solve climate change.

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